By Executive Director, Julie Marner

One Special PlaceThe beauty of having seven of us visit Burundi in August was that we were able to divide into teams. While Val and Matt stayed by Sylvia’s side assisting her at the teacher training workshop, Susanna continued working with her violin students, leaving three of us to work with BFI leaders about a new exciting stage in our development. Drum roll, please. Monitoring & Evaluation! How exciting!

Yes! The next stage in BFI’s development is to zero in and measure our impact across the country in not just English learning, but also how our clubs boost the personal and household income of the individual. Over time, our data will enhance our abilities to receive grants therefore reaching more youth, women, and families. Did you know that many businesses in Burundi require the acquisition of basic English skills? They sure do, and the wider East African Community expects it as well. While BFI students continually progress through English levels, they are also busy fine tuning their business skills within BFI economic savings groups. The spirit of entrepreneurship in Burundi is alive and well today. Just wait until 2020 and beyond to witness the unfolding of today’s hard work put in by students across Burundi’s 18 provinces.

Matt in Burundi

Throughout days 2-6 of our visit, I personally focused on advancing partnership relationships. I met with International University of Equator (IUE), located at the heart of Bujumbura. IUE is home to eight of BFI’s college students supported by YOU, our BFI Family of Donors. Because of IUE’s appreciation of the character shown in our BFI students, this fast growing I.T. and English teaching institution is now a partner to BFI with our shared goal of promoting business and I.T. to Burundi’s next generation of leaders. Other successful partnership efforts included a visit to the oldest Rotary Club in Burundi (you’ll read about fruition of this visit in early 2019), and other educational and business institutions.

Matt BFI

To close this portion, I want to add that we did take time to have a little fun. Various viewpoints occur when talking about our big night out on the town. Some of the team still implies today that I was completely lost leading them down a busy Bujumbura street in the dark while looking for a specific beachfront restaurant. “HA!,” I say. What’s wrong with deliberately getting in a few more steps for health benefits prior to a big sit-down meal? The next day we ventured out to see the beautiful Source of the Nile River! I know you’re envious. You should be because the drive to the Source is stunning. We met some new friends on the way as we stopped for a stretch break in our crowded jeeps. I’ll let Sylvia’s words take it from here.

A group of wide-eyed villagers approached us hesitantly, because they had probably never before seen so many Americans. After interacting with us with hugs, smiles, and non-verbal greetings, Kararero translated what a woman said to me in her native language. “Before seeing you I was hungry and tired, but after meeting you I am full – full of happiness and hope.”